Avoiding Injuries This Winter

Snow is in the air, and we know what that means: Poor driving conditions, icy sidewalks, and lots of shoveling! The start of this slippery season can be hard on our bodies when we’re not used to walking like penguins on ice or shoveling endless snow. Here are some tips on how to avoid outdoor injuries this winter!

Winter walking

Experts at winter walking at work here!

Ottawa is notorious for having wet days followed by freezing days, covering our streets and sidewalks in ice. Make sure you’re prepared for it this year with these tips:

  • Winter footwear: Wear well-fitting winter boots with deep treads to help grip the ice. Wearing thick winter socks can do double duty by keeping your feet warm and filling the space in your boots to prevent your foot slipping inside! If you want that extra grip on the sidewalks, get yourself some ice grippers to wear on your shoes.
  • Walk like a penguin: As strange as it looks, mimicking the arctic bird can work wonders for your balance on ice! When walking on a slippery surface, slow down, lean your torso slightly forward so your weight in on your front leg, keep your arms out for balance, and take small steps.
  • Walk on flat ground: Many sidewalks or paths have some slopes to them, which can mean disaster if covered in ice. Try to stay on even surfaces and take great care when there is a slope!
  • Work on your balance! Wintertime is when many of us decide to hibernate, which means our muscles tend to get weaker. We tend to use a lot of small supporting muscles to balance on ice, so we don’t want those to go to waste! Working on balance and strength exercises goes far in reducing your risk of falls in the winter. Talk to your physiotherapist about how you can improve your balance this winter!

Shoveling

As the snow blankets our neighborhoods, we’re looking at our driveways in dread: it’s time for shoveling again! Aside from being an annoyance, shoveling can be dangerous for people who are not used to this kind of exercise. Here are some suggestions to keep your shoulders, back, and heart happy after shoveling:

  • Don’t rush it: The last thing we want to do when it’s -30 degrees outside is shovel our driveway, but rushing the job increases our risk of injury. Dress warm and take your time!
  • Warm up: Shoveling can be hard work and uses muscles we don’t typically use in our daily lives. Make sure to do some light stretching and warm-up exercises for your shoulders and back before starting and start with a lighter load to prime your shoveling muscles.
  • Know your limits: Not all snow is the same! We have days where wet snow can feel as heavy as a sack of bricks. When shoveling heavy snow or large quantities of snow, make sure you take lighter loads to avoid straining your back or shoulders.
  • Use your legs! Too much repetitive bending and lifting from the back and arms can give anyone an injury. Especially with heavier loads, make sure you are bending from the knees and getting close to the load before you lift it up.

Stay warm and safe out there!

About The Author

Jonathan Rankin obtained his MSc in Physiotherapy at McMaster University, and also completed both a BSc and an MSc in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. He has a strong background in exercise, from working as a personal trainer at the University of Ottawa to conducting research on exercise during pregnancy in his master’s degree.

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